Ten Questions With...Scott Sheppard

Scott Sheppard is a member of new Philly Improv Theater House Team Codenamed Brandybuck. He is also the director of current house team Fletcher, and a member of The Groundswell Players.

How and why did you get into comedy? I got into comedy at Haverford College where I joined the Throng improv group.  They were working on long-form improv, which I didn't know much about, but I pretty quickly fell in love with it.

How would you describe your style as a comedian? What influences and factors do you think contribute to that? I guess I used to describe myself as an improviser but now I am trying to do a little bit more acting and play development as well.  Some of my biggest influences are UCB, Pig Iron Theater, Larry David, and early Saturday Night Live.

Do you have a favorite show or venue you like to perform at? What about it makes it fun or special for you? I think my favorite venue is the Latvian Society because of the great bar, the helpful staff, and the cool way that theater companies transform the space.

Do you have a single favorite moment in Philly comedy or one that stands out? Favorite moment in Philly comedy is a tough one.  I think it has to be John Buseman's goodbye Fletcher show at the Shubin.

Do you have any sort of creative process that you use with your writing or your performance? Besides doing traditional long form improv, my theater company The Groundswell Players creates devised theater, which means that we use improv to collaboratively write our plays.

What is it about improv (or stand-up, or sketch, whatever you do...) that draws you to it? I love improv because it allows you to be an actor, creator, writer, and director all at the same time.  It's freeing and energizing when you are out there on a stage and you have nothing to go on except your instincts.

Do you have any favorite performers in the Philly scene? Why are they your favorites? There are a bunch of performers I love to watch in Philadelphia.  I feel bad singling any of the members of Fletcher out because I think of them as an ensemble.  I'll say I think JP, Nathan Edmondson, Matt Holmes are a few stand out veterans that come to mind.

Do you have any bad experiences doing comedy that you can share? A particularly bad bombing or even an entire show gone haywire? So many bad shows.  I remember a show that I did when I was still in college for DCM.  It must have been 2001.  I was performing with a thrown-together group that had practiced only a few times.  We had a god-awful time slot and I think it was an abortion joke involving a coat hanger that sent the audience--a sparse and tired group to begin with--into a chilly silence that lasted the duration of the set.  It was the worst of comedy doldrums, and only a few times have I ever felt as embarrassed about a performance in my life.

What do you think the Philly comedy scene needs to continue to grow?  I think having a dedicated space for comedy will really help propel the scene in great ways. This will deepen the fan base beyond we improv and comedy nerds and help the scene embrace the rest of the Philadelphia community.

Do you have any personal goals for the future as you continue to perform comedy? My personal goals are to create stand-out, amazing comedy that is respected by comedy connoisseurs and average folks alike.  I'm always skeptical when comedians say things like, "the audience doesn't get my stuff!"  I think you are just as responsible for showing an audience why they should laugh at you.  Great experimental shows push the envelope, but they find ways to bring the audience along with them, even if the ride is wild and incomprehensible.  I would love to create pieces that are unique and challenging but also intuitive and easy to watch.  We'll see how it goes.